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    "Gaga: Five Foot Two" -A Review

    An image of Lady Gaga going through treatment for her chronic illness, from her Instagram

    Today, I finally joined the legions of Little Monsters and watched Lady Gaga’s Netflix documentary. Gaga: Five Foot Two follows Gaga as she records and releases her newest album, “Joanne.” This intimate look into Gaga’s life and artistic process also touches on an important topic for me: chronic illness.

    Though her fibromyalgia was never explicitly mentioned in the documentary, Gaga tweeted in September of 2017, that “the #chronicillness #chronicpain I deal w/ is #Fibromyalgia.” By showcasing her life with fibromyalgia, Gaga wished to “help raise awareness & connect people who have it.” And by exposing the raw and painful side of chronic illness while illustrating that it’s possible to live your best life despite it, I believe Gaga did just that.

    I had heard good reviews about Gaga’s representation of chronic illness in her documentary through the spoonie community immediately after its release. So, I started watching with expectations of her experience with chronic illness being a major focus. That, I quickly learned, was an erroneous assumption on my part. There were actually only a couple of scenes that were centered on her chronic illness. However, these scenes were powerful enough to give viewers a look into the struggles that are very familiar to chronic illness sufferers, and often hidden to others.

    One scene, showing Gaga lying down on the couch, crying in pain, especially stood out to me. Seeing a pop star who I had never seen in a light other than bold, powerful, and glamorous was the initial shock. The rest of the shock came from seeing her in a position that I am all too familiar with, and realizing that although our lives may seem vastly different, in reality, they are very similar when it comes to living with chronic pain.

    I cannot count the times that I was in the same position as Gaga was in that scene, both physically and mentally. Gaga was then suffering from muscle spasms and pain on the right side of her body, radiating from her hip. As I watched her struggle in pain, I remembered the many times that I was stuck in bed or on the couch, debilitated from similar symptoms. It was an eye-opening experience to see Gaga in this new light, and it reinforced the point that no matter how one presents visually, illnesses can always be present. This scene also reinforced the point that no matter how you live your life, your chronic illness will always be there with you. Seeing someone who I view to “have it all” dealing with such a familiar and traumatic issue was a reminder that chronic pain does not discriminate, and everyone who has it struggles in their own way. I felt less alone after watching this. And surprisingly, it also made me feel less bitter about the chronic illness struggles I deal with on a daily basis.

    A lot of the time, it’s easy to feel as if chronic illness is not only dominating, but leading your life. Personally, I feel like I can’t make a major decision without consulting my illnesses first, and a lot of what I do (doctors’ appointments, my activism, my daily routines) are because of my chronic illnesses. So, I often feel resentful to my illnesses, as if they are stealing the life that I “should” have from me. But seeing Gaga living her dream to the fullest while still dealing with chronic illness reminded me that doing so is still possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the obstacles being ill presents, and seeing Gaga overcome hers was a needed reminder that they can be overcome.

    In another scene, Gaga was getting medical treatment at a doctor’s office. While I was jealous of her accessibility to care (getting massages as often as she needed them, being able to afford the best doctors), I also felt for her as she sat on that hospital bed. Chronic illness is something that quite literally breaks you. I had never seen Gaga so vulnerable before. I had also never seen her so brave before. Having the courage to show herself at her weakest, helping herself back up by getting treatment, truly showed her strength.

    Seeing Gaga consult with doctors and receive treatment for her fibromyalgia also normalized a very common aspect of being ill. I spend more time attending to my chronic illnesses than anything, and it is very much consuming. Visually seeing someone else also have to dedicate a significant portion of their time to their illness instead of doing other fun things young people are “supposed to do” was impactful in that it made me feel ok and even normal that I spend so much time on my health.

    After watching Five Foot Two, I gained an appreciation of her as an artist, and as a person. If you would like an inside look into the world of the woman behind the meat dress, and a better understanding of living with chronic illness, I highly recommend this documentary.